Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball suffers disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure at Mullins Center Thursday -

January 19, 2017

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

January 19, 2017

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

Amherst Survival Center director receives honor for community leadership

survival Center 3As the nation grapples with issues concerning health care reform, Dr. Susan Lowery is taking the lead in a local grassroots effort through the Amherst Survival Center on North Pleasant Street to address the health care needs of the town”s homeless and uninsured population.

Last week, Lowery, as volunteer clinical director of the Free Clinic at the Amherst Survival Center, received recognition for her work when the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) presented her with Community Leadership Award for “Outstanding Contribution to Local Community Health.”

Cathy O’Connor, director of DPH’s Office of Healthy Communities at the DPH’s Ounce of Prevention conference in Marlborough presented the award.  Though Lowery was unable to attend the ceremony, O’Connor praised Lowery’s “unstoppable energy and devotion,” in her work as both founder and director of the clinic.

 “I was really humbled and honored to get the award, I didn’t realize I had been nominated,” said Lowery. “What we’re doing is really fun and really exciting, its nice that people are willing to recognize that.”

The clinic, which is run entirely by volunteers, consists of an office within the Survival Center, where Lowery and Dr. Daniel Clapp hold hours twice a week for walk-in patients. Since its establishment in January 2008, the clinic has expanded to serve about 325 patients, many of whom are homeless and do not have access to other forms of medical care, said Cheryl Zoll, executive director of the center.

Based on their own data, 75 percent of the clients who utilize their services are under-insured or uninsured, she said.

“We thought it would be good for people who did not have insurance, or people who for mental health reasons might be distrustful of going to a hospital to receive medical care in a place where they were already comfortable,” said Zoll, of the creation of the clinic.

Lowery offered additional reasons for why patients utilize the free clinic.

“Many people have insurance, but their lives are so chaotic that they can’t make an appointment 10 days in advance and keep it,” she said, “People can’t afford co-pays or they are already here for other services like the food pantry.”

Lowery had said that overall the clinic had been very well received.

Recently, the clinic has seen a surge in interest in its services as a result of increasing unemployment and subsequent loss of employee health insurance, said Zoll. She said that some patients were coming into the clinic because they needed to have a physical exam prior to being interviewed for a new position. Without health insurance, paying for a physical exam becomes too great of an economic hardship, so uninsured job seekers are increasingly relying on the free health care services the clinic provides.

Zoll said the clinic most commonly sees cases of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, but also treat a wide range of conditions. Patient confidentiality is highly valued according to Zoll.

“We are very much no questions asked,” she said. 

Because the clinic provides free services, it must rely on a combination of funding from Cooley Dickinson Hospital, private donors and lots of volunteer work Zoll said.

“The success of the clinic is overwhelmingly due to the fact that the doctors volunteer their time,” she said.

In order to provide a wider range of services, the clinic also collaborates with Health Care for the Homeless at Mercy Hospital, the Salvation Army, Eliot Homeless Services and Cooley Dickinson Hospital in the Comprehensive Health Care Initiative. The combined services allows the clinic to offer on-site registration for state health insurance, financial support for prescriptions, weekly counseling for the mentally ill homeless, health education classes, screening, immunizations and public health resources, according to a press release.

This year, the Office of the Attorney General provided the clinic with a $50,000 grant for prescription payment assistance.

“The grant is a huge help, co-pays are going up and if you can’t pay for medicine you are really in a bind,” said Lowery, adding that the grant has allowed the clinic to greatly expand the aid it can give to the community.

This fall, the Survival Center is also working to expand its training of future community health care providers through collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Commonwealth College. The honors college is offering a two semester course this fall that is training students how to become patient advocates, Zoll said.

“Medical advocates accompany people to doctor’s appointments and help them participate fully in their care,” said Lowery.

The clini’”s next big goal, according to Lowery, is finding a way to provide free dental care.

“I have people coming in with chronically abscessed teeth and I can’t give them care,” Lowery said, “It is a travesty they are being ignored. Dental care, vision care and hearing, those are basic rights, they should not be privileges.”

“We’re working toward finding a dentist or two or three to volunteer time,” Zoll said, though she acknowledged that the search had been difficult.

“This is very much our dream for the clinic,” she said.

Niina Heikkinen can be reached at nheikkin@student.umass.edu

Leave A Comment